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THE SCHOOL THEFTS INVESTIGATION

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KEY PLAYERS:

Ronald Richardson, operator of chemical companies who began cooperating with investigators in April, 1986.

Melvin N. Tokunaga, L.A. school district’s deputy director of custodial services who was booked in December on suspicion of embezzlement of public funds. He has been placed on leave.

James L. Riley, the district’s director of custodial operations, who has been placed on leave.

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Richardson wore a hidden transmitting device to a number of meetings with Tokunaga, the alleged organizer of the theft ring, allowing investigators to monitor the conversations, according to court documents. Some excerpts from the affidavit:

“Mr. Richardson stated that he has been part of an ongoing conspiracy to steal and then sell products intended for the Los Angeles Unified School District since October of 1983.”

“Richardson stated that Tokunaga told him that he needed $100,000 to buy a house for a girlfriend of his.”

“Richardson stated that in order to keep this conspiracy ongoing and to maintain a cash flow he has refinanced several properties he owns as well as made personal loans for cash. Richardson stated that he continued in this conspiracy because Tokunaga kept promising him a percentage of the profits at some future date.”

(On Sept. 9, Tokunaga complained to Richardson that Riley was not giving enough help to him in thwarting the district attorney’s investigators looking into possible thefts.) “During this Tokunaga told Richardson that the only help that Riley gave during the investigation was to claim to not know what Tokunaga was doing.”

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